As the current economy wreaks havoc on the business world, various companies and organizations recognize that the most effective strategy that works in any economy is customer service.

 

Each week I read dozens of articles about how various companies are combating the slow economy with creating great service experiences that keep customers coming back.  Innovative ideas that are enhancing customer service are keeping customers and in some cases bringing in new ones.  And to get competitive, rather than lowering prices, companies are finding new ways to deliver service that they may not have done before.  For example…

 

A restaurant that never took reservations is now willing to do so.  Why?  Because that is what the guests want, and if that is what it takes to get them in the door, they’ll adapt.

 

A distributor sends a truck loaded with equipment to a customer’s location.  Rather than just pulling up to the dock and waiting for the customer’s warehouse employees to unload the truck, the driver now does it for the customer.  This extra value-added step has helped the company secure even more business from existing customers.  Why?  The competitors are doing this (yet).

 

Recently Southwest Airlines started experimenting with free in-flight Internet service.  Other airlines are also experimenting with this, but I haven’t heard of any of them offering it for free.  This is the type of value-added service that creates a better customer experience that helps keep customers loyal and may even pull business away from the competition.  And, while many other airlines add fees for checked baggage, Southwest continues to check bags for free, as they always have.  Southwest Airlines doesn’t promise “white glove” service.  They promise a good value and a pleasant flight.  They continue to meet and exceed customers’ expectations.

 

Here’s my take on this.  Companies that are creating better service experiences, and getting creative about doing so, will gain more market share during the rough economy and prosper even more as the economy returns to normal.

 

In short, the economy is forcing “service creativity,” which is about coming up with new and different ways to create a better customer experience.  The first step to service creativity is to hold a meeting with your employees.  Brainstorm what you can do to add value to your existing products and services as well as the process you use to deliver them.  Ask your customers what you can do to make doing business with you even better.  Listen to what your customers want and suggest what you may not already be doing.  You may find the competitive edge that will help you weather the economic storm and prosper well into the future.

 

Shep Hyken, CSP, CPAE is the Chief Amazement Officer of Shepard Presentations.  As a professional speaker and author, Shep helps companies develop loyal relationships with their customers and employees.  For more information on Shep’s speaking programs and books, please contact (314) 692-2200. Email: shep@hyken.com  Web: www.hyken.com. For information on customer service training, go to www.TheCustomerFocus.com.

 

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